Education

Dance lessons provide many benefits for special-needs students

Musician Marcus Wilkerson played conga drums and Breckinridge Elementary School students danced to the rhythms recently. Wilkerson and Jeana Kleven, founder and artistic director of the Allegro Dance Project, worked with the kids on various dance movements.
Musician Marcus Wilkerson played conga drums and Breckinridge Elementary School students danced to the rhythms recently. Wilkerson and Jeana Kleven, founder and artistic director of the Allegro Dance Project, worked with the kids on various dance movements. cbertram@herald-leader.com

With a musician providing a live beat, a dance company helps special-needs students in Lexington learn simple dance moves and, with them, behavioral and physical skills.

Jeana Klevene, director and founder of the Allegro Dance Project, a Lexington non-profit contemporary dance company, said she takes a musician and, if needed, a physical therapist to the Down Syndrome Association of Central Kentucky on Chinoe Road and to public schools.

She said she wanted to take the program to public schools for special-needs students who might not have the money for private dance lessons, or transportation to lessons, or access to a physical therapist who can help them participate safely.

Traci Brewer, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association, said the dancing “gets them up and gets them moving, moving toward a more healthy lifestyle.”

Down Syndrome is a congenital disorder arising from a chromosome defect, causing intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities.

Brewer’s daughter Emily, who has Down Syndrome, enjoys the socialization and talking to others.

“She really looks forward to it,” Brewer said. “She feels proud of herself.”

Bella Ruzzene, 7, who has Down Syndrome, loves to dance and “this is a really nice environment for her,” said her mother, Julia Ruzzene. “It keeps her entertained; it keeps her moving. They understand if she has behavior issues. If she’s not doing exactly what she’s supposed to, they can help her regroup and pay attention, and they understand her physical challenges.”

Klevene doesn’t focus on the student’s limitations. With drummer Travis Hewuse, “we work on rhythms and patterns and memorization skills,” Klevene said.

The Allegro Dance Project has visited Arlington, Booker T. Washington Intermediate, Cardinal Valley, Julius Marks and Russell Cave elementaries, and Leestown and Tates Creek middle schools. Klevene said she also offers classes at Bryan Station and Lafayette high schools.

On several Tuesdays, she worked with children at Breckinridge Elementary,

where students have a broad spectrum of special needs and special education, teacher Molly Anderson said.

The dance classes help students follow directions. It also helps them “work on their management of their self-control and was really good for their self-esteem,” Anderson said.

The Allegro Dance Project company performs at Lexington’s Lyric Theatre. The company has invited all students in their Inclusive Dance Outreach Program to participate in its June 25 performance, Grow.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

If you go

Allegro Dance Project presents GROW

When: 3 and 7 p.m. June 25 at the Lyric Theatre

Tickets: $12-18. Call 859-280-2218 or go to Lexingtonlyric.tix.com

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